story and photos by Kayte Deioma
Like afternoon tea in England, Kaffee und Kuchen or coffee and cake is a time-honored ritual in Germany. Rather than serving dessert after a meal as we do in the U.S., sweets get their own dedicated meal mid-afternoon. Restaurants may hold strictly to their Coffee Table hours of 2:30 or 3 pm until 5, then re-open for dinner at 6:30 or 7 pm, but cafes are more flexible, and will serve you coffee and cake until they run out of cake.
When it comes to coffee, German varieties tend to be on the mild side. Kaffee Hag is the only brand of decaffeinated coffee widely available in Germany, but most cafes carry only caffeinated coffee. They may have herbal teas or hot chocolate as a decaffeinated alternative. Some cafes also serve alcohol.
As for cake, the Germans go all out with elegant layer cakes, streusel cakes with different kinds of fruit such as cherry or plum, apple cakes similar to a deep dish pie, fancy fruit tortes and gooey cream cakes. Then there are the cheese cakes, flat or tall, made with different kinds of cheese depending on the baker’s preferences, and sometimes combined with other ingredients like fruit or chocolate.
Here are some favorite places in Dusseldorf to stop for your Kaffee und Kuchen, depending on where you find yourself on a rainy afternoon.
Café Heinemann ( www.cafe-heinemann.de ) is a “destination café.” If you’re only going to stop at one cafe in Dusseldorf, this combination bakery, chocolate shop, cafe and restaurant has something for every sweet tooth and regular food besides. People come from far and wide to buy their chocolates and try their cakes. If you’re going to be shopping on the famed Königsallee, a high end shopping street with a tree-lined moat down the center, that’s a good time to stop at one of the three locations there. There are two at the north end of the boulevard; one at Königsallee 1 and across the street in the Vereinsbank Passage which goes through from Königsallee to Blumenstrasse.
At the south end of Königsallee, signs will direct you around the corner to Bahnstrasse 16. If the tantalizing cake selection in the window doesn’t draw you in, the fanciful chocolates will. In May, the selection included chocolate May beetles filled with champagne truffle and white chocolate asparagus spears in honor of asparagus season. Although the café/bakery is in the Viennese tradition, cakes range from the traditional Mozart torte with layers of chocolate, hazelnut cream and marzipan to the original Hawaii cake with at least seven kinds of fruit. For ease of ordering from the dozen or so varieties available, you select your cake from the display case up front before you sit down and order coffee.
Rondo Café and Bar
If you’re inside the maze of shopping passages along the east side of Königsallee, make your way to the top of the rotunda in the Kö Galerie to the Rondo Café & Bar. The tables all have a view down into the many levels of exclusive shops below, and if you can’t afford the Cartier shop next to the café, coffee and cake is no more expensive than anywhere else in town. The cakes are made by the same baker who supplies the café at the Benrath Palace. You won’t find the 25 varieties available at Benrath, but the half a dozen on offer each day are sure to be excellent. I recommend the Apfelkuchen (apple cake). Rondo Café, Königsallee 60 in the Kö Galerie.
If you’re in the Altstadt ( Old Town), a nice place for an afternoon break isCafé Schwan, right on the square across from the old Schlossturm ( Castle Tower). If the weather is nice, there’s plenty of outdoor seating, but there’s lots of room inside too. The cake selection may not be very large, but you can pretty much depend on finding a great piece of cheesecake. Proprietor Kerstin Schwan, who also owns several other Dusseldorf restaurants, offers a full menu of German and international cuisine at the cafe. It’s especially popular for breakfast or brunch. Mühlenstraße 2 on the Burgplatz
Café Curtiz im KIT
If your exploring Kunst im Tunnel (Art in the Tunnel), plan your visit to coincide with a coffee break at the Café Curtiz im KIT. It’s also a full restaurant with a nice view of the Rhine River and the Rheinkniebrueke (literally, Rhine knee bridge, for the bend in the river where it crosses). The Café can also provide an inexpensive dinner if you’re planning a visit to the Apollo Theater next door and didn’t buy the dinner tickets there.
If you care more about the coffee than the cake, Bazzar Caffé(www.bazzar.de) at Heinrich-Heine-Allee 53 in the Wilhelm Marx building is an homage to the dark brew. Floor to ceiling shelves display just about every kind of coffee making gadget ever invented. They have coffee specialties with and without alcohol – or alcohol with and without coffee if you prefer. They also serve sandwiches, salads and a full breakfast menu. Cake selections vary.
Top 180 at the Rheinturm
The rotating Top 180 (www.rheinturm-restaurants-duesseldorf.de) restaurant atop the Rheinturm ( Rhine Tower) serves Kaffee und Kuchen from 2:30 to 5 pm. You have to pay the entrance fee to the tower to go up to the restaurant, but if you’re going up anyway, you might as well stop for cake, right? Alas, I missed the official cake hours and was too early for dinner, so I could just look longingly at the leftovers and enjoy the view.
If you make the trip out to the Neanderthal Museum near Mettman, you’ll be surrounded by café/restaurants if you want to get out of the museum for a break. But you don’t have to leave the building to find a delicious piece of cake. Several varieties are served daily along with a tranquil view of the woods from the upstairs Café inside the museum.